Hesitation Marks (also known as Halo 28) is the ninth studio album from Nine Inch Nails. It was released on September 3, 2013 in a total of five formats: CD, Deluxe Edition CD, vinyl, digital and iTunes Deluxe Edition. The album was recorded secretly over the course of a year and came as a complete surprise to fans. On August 26th, 2013, the full album was leaked on the internet, and was made available for streaming on iTunes the following day.
- "The Eater Of Dreams" – :52
- "Copy Of A" – 5:23
- "Came Back Haunted" – 5:17
- "Find My Way" – 5:16
- "All Time Low" – 6:18
- "Disappointed" – 5:44
- "Everything" – 3:20
- "Satellite" – 5:03
- "Various Methods Of Escape" – 5:01
- "Running" – 4:08
- "I Would For You" – 4:33
- "In Two" – 5:32
- "While I'm Still Here" – 4:03
- "Black Noise" – 1:29
Deluxe Edition CD
The Deluxe Edition CD includes the following remixes on a second disc:
- "Find My Way" (Oneohtrix Point Never Remix) – 4:47
- "All Time Low" (Todd Rundgren Remix) – 5:49
- "While I'm Still Here" (Breyer P-Orridge 'Howler' Remix) – 7:03
It also comes in a 28 page hardcover ecolbook. This is the only packaging that includes lyrics and the booklet contains significantly more artwork than that of the standard CD.
iTunes/HDtracks Bonus Track
An exclusive bonus track was available with the iTunes Deluxe Edition and HDtracks Standard Edition:
- "Trent Reznor In Conversation With..." – 41:58
The self-conducted interview also includes several demos from the album:
The Japanese standard CD includes an exclusive bonus remix as track 15:
- "Everything" (Autolux Remix) – 4:30
The double vinyl release splits sides between "Find My Way" and "All Time Low", "Everything" and "Satellite", and "Running" and "I Would For You". It also contains the album on CD, as was the case with How To Destroy Angels' Welcome Oblivion.
I've been less than honest about what I’ve really been up to lately. For the last year I’ve been secretly working non-stop with Atticus Ross and Alan Moulder on a new, full-length Nine Inch Nails record, which I am happy to say is finished and frankly fucking great. This is the real impetus and motivation behind the decision to assemble a new band and tour again. My forays into film, HTDA and other projects really stimulated me creatively and I decided to focus that energy on taking Nine Inch Nails to a new place. Here we go!
— Trent Reznor, 5.28.13.
It was then officially announced via Twitter on June 5, 2013, the day before the release of its first single, Came Back Haunted. Nine Inch Nails signed with Columbia Records in 2013, making this the first album on a major label since Year Zero.
During the month of August, the tracks "Copy Of A", "Everything" and "Find My Way" were also made available through various online sources. "Copy Of A" and "Everything" were then released as commercial digital singles via Amazon and iTunes on August 20th. A teaser trailer featuring "The Eater Of Dreams" and a look at the album's packaging was posted on August 26th.
Inspiration and recording
The album began as a couple of tracks that were meant to be included in a forthcoming greatest hits package for Interscope Records. The sessions gave way to more songs and ended up yielding an entire album. At one point during the album's creation, producer Markus Dravs was brought in to add a different perspective from Reznor's long-term team of Atticus Ross and Alan Moulder. The collaboration didn't feel right, however, and was terminated.
In an interview with The Guardian, Reznor revealed that the two songs originally written and recorded for the hits package were "Everything" and "Satellite". He also explained what inspired, in his view, a more minimal and sparse treatment of the music:
What I found the most inspiring was sitting with just a drum machine in my bedroom, in my office. Not having a keyboard or a guitar and playing everything on pads. Me sitting alone with literally one piece of gear just messing around, I found it exciting. It lent to the minimal edge, because it didn't feel like it needed more.
The album title is a term for wounds that are sometimes made when a person is contemplating suicide by wrist cutting. Fans have speculated that this is either a reference to Reznor being not quite ready to put NIN to rest, or a reference to the fact that the album is conceptually an "upward spiral" and a reflection of the fact that Reznor did not end up killing himself when he was at his lowest point.
Relation to The Downward Spiral
In interviews with The New York Times and SPIN, Reznor stated that he had The Downward Spiral in mind as he worked on Hesitation Marks:
I felt very aware that it's 20 years later, and I'm still that guy. I know that guy, and I feel for him. I don't resent him, I don't miss him. But how would things feel on the other side of that now, in a much more stable life place, mentally and physically, and with a new family? The incentive has changed. It's not about, "I'm going to kill myself if I don't get this out of my head." But the excavation and the architecture behind it, the motivation behind it, is similar.
For some reason, when I started working more on Hesitation Marks, I started thinking back romantically about who I was when I was writing The Downward Spiral. I was looking back on who I was then and who I am now and how things have turned out, for better or worse. That was the air the new record was born in. I was looking at the other side of how I was not always honest about who I was in the '90s — and I knew I wasn't being honest — and if you sprinkle those negative feelings with some drugs and alcohol, it's usually not a recipe for success.
In the self-interview included with the iTunes Deluxe Edition of Hesitation Marks, Reznor spoke of the intentional link that was made between the artwork of the two albums:
Now in terms of making that connection more literal to Downward Spiral, the choice of reaching out to Russell Mills, later in the process, to actually provide the artwork was certainly a conscious trail of breadcrumbs. The choice of using the same font — we were making the connection here.
The album was made available in two different masters: a "standard" version, and an "Audiophile Mastered Version" having extended dynamic range and not meant to be competitive in the loudness war. An explanation was posted on the official NIN tumblr account:
Hesitation Marks was mastered in two different ways - the standard, “loud” mastering (which is what you’ll find on the CD, on iTunes, and everywhere else), and also an alternate “audiophile” mastering, which we’re offering as a free download option for anyone who purchases the album through nin.com. For the majority of people, the standard version will be preferable and differences will be difficult to detect. Audiophiles with high-end equipment and an understanding of the mastering process might prefer the alternate version.
Alan Moulder, who mixed the album, offers a more detailed explanation:
When we were mixing Hesitation Marks we decided to treat the mastering process in a slightly different way to the usual. Since we had tried to treat every other aspect of making this record differently to how we were used to, it seemed to make sense. We were mixing as we went along with the production of each song rather than at the end, so we thought that once we had a song pretty close we would send it off to Tom Baker, our long time serving mastering engineer, to give it some mastering treatment. Normally you wait until the record is finished being recorded and mixed, then take all the mixes to mastering. But we thought doing it again, as we went along, might make us push the process further and spend more time on mastering rather than rush through it at the end. Whilst doing this we became aware of how much low bass information there was on the record. Since that can define how loud of a level the mastering can be, we were faced with a dilemma: do we keep the bass and and have a significantly lower level record, or do we sacrifice the bass for a more competitive level of volume? The biggest issue in mastering these days tends to be how loud can you make your record. It is a fact that when listening back-to-back, loud records will come across more impressively, although in the long run what you sacrifice for that level can be quality and fidelity. So after much discussion we decided to go with two versions. On the main release Tom did exceptional work to maintain the integrity of our mixes and reproduce the low end as much as possible and still get a decent level, although it’s still nowhere as loud as a lot of modern records. The Audiophile Mastered Version is more true to how the mixes sounded to us in the studio when we were working on the songs. Have a listen, turn up the volume and enjoy the experience!
Mastering Engineer Tom Baker adds: I believe it was Trent’s idea to master the album two different ways, and to my knowledge it has never been done before. The standard version is “loud” and more aggressive and has more of a bite or edge to the sound with a tighter low end. The Audiophile Mastered Version highlights the mixes as they are without compromising the dynamics and low end, and not being concerned about how “loud” the album would be. The goal was to simply allow the mixes to retain the spatial relationship between instruments and the robust, grandiose sound.
NOTE: The standard mastered version is in no way inferior to the Audiophile Version - we wouldn’t release something inferior as the default. And vinyl purists rest assured, the vinyl edition was mastered to sound the very best for that format. The Audiophile Version is merely an alternate take on the mastering, which some people will appreciate. It’s meant to give a slightly different experience, not denigrate the standard version. Listen to each and come to your own conclusions.
If you ordered any format of Hesitation Marks from nin.com, you’ll be able to download one or both mastering versions, in whichever formats you prefer (MP3, FLAC, Apple Lossless, and WAV), beginning September 3rd.
This album marks a return to the artwork of Russell Mills, whose work was previously used for March Of The Pigs, The Downward Spiral, Further Down The Spiral and Closure. There is a different cover for each of the five editions. Reznor stated in a radio interview that he couldn't choose between the various covers and decided to use them all. He also stated that Mills had suggested the album title. The typeface used is DINEngschrift in lowercase (the same typeface was used on the previous Russell Mills designs and in all caps on The Perfect Drug.)
Some of the alternate covers are used within the packaging of the other editions, i.e. the cover of the standard CD is inside the gatefold of the vinyl, the cover of the iTunes Deluxe Edition is on the booklet of the standard CD, etc. The covers of the international and Japanese standard CDs are a variation on the cover of the US standard CD, with the painting oriented sideways and, in the case of the Japanese cover, photographed from a slightly different vantage point and lighter in hue. The digital Audiophile Mastered Version cover is a variation on the standard digital cover, with the painting again oriented sideways.
In a post on the official NIN Tumblr account, the various artwork was elaborated on by Mills:
The artworks, (30 mixed media pieces) that I eventually produced towards uses in the Hesitation Marks releases, evolved out of lengthy exchanges between myself and Trent and in response to the conceptual ideas that thread through the tracks and to the sonic territory that the album explores. I’ve tried to lock into the album’s prevailing mood and echo the album’s essence. The ideas are not communicated in a literal or easily digested form, as this would be boring for me and would insult the intelligence of a potential audience. I’ve tried to make works that obliquely allude to the essence of the subject matter, to its emotional core.
As with my self-initiated works - the paintings, assemblages, collages and multimedia installations - personal ideas and obsessions seep into these works. The organic, the natural, prevailing over or feeding into the industrial, the man made, is a common theme in my work generally and in this instance was particularly apt for the art required.
The works explore ideas of catharsis, of being into dissolution into being, both on a personal and sociological level. They allude to ideas about chaos and order. They deal with ways of suggesting presence in absence. They are a cross between the forensic and a pathology of the personal in which only fragments remain, in which minimal clues can suggest events that may have occurred. They attempt to harness the chaos of a situation, of now, of the personal trauma, of the human condition, into a form that is coherent, a form that accommodates the mess without disguising it as something else. It attempts to capture the essence of these ideas by implication and exclusion. Beneath the form lies the uncertainty and ceaseless flux of the mess, of the chaos.
An amalgam of the contextually-anchored and the process-driven, they are hopefully powerful, arresting, seductive, suggestive and resonant. I hope that they will invite multiple readings.
- Digital cover: "Turn And Burn" (Plaster, earth, oils, acrylics, etching varnish, bitumen, burning, rusted linen, blood, spent matches, on wood)
- Deluxe CD cover: "Cargo In The Blood" (Burning, Polaroid frame, copper wire, mica, on velvet, on wood)
- Standard CD cover: "Time And Again" (Plaster, earth, oils, acrylics, etching varnish, rusted linen, blood, microscope slides, on wood)
- Vinyl cover: "Other Murmurs" (Plaster, earth, oils, acrylics, etching varnish, collage, on canvas, on wood)
- iTunes Deluxe cover: "Lures" (Plaster, earth, oils, acrylics, fishing flies, threads, on wood)
Cargo In The Blood
A limited edition art book/multiple containing Mills' art for Hesitation Marks was released in December 2015. It was priced at $300 and the following information was given on the site set up at cargointheblood.com:
Nine Inch Nails and long-time collaborator and artist Russell Mills present Cargo In The Blood, a deluxe, limited edition 320-page book collecting all of the works the artist created for Nine Inch Nails’ Hesitation Marks album. Each volume also includes an original mixed media painting created by Russell Mills specifically for the project. Available exclusively on NIN.com, Cargo In The Blood is limited to 2000 copies and will be available to order 12/16/15 10am PT.
- Limited edition 320 page book featuring Russell Mills’ art for Hesitation Marks
- Original Mixed Media Painting by Mills housed in a COR-TEN steel frame
- Custom laser-etched steel card numbered between 1 and 2000
- Each set is bound in a plush cotton and rayon flocked material
- Exterior features debossed and foil stamped lettering and unique hand cauterized mark
- Pages printed with Metallic Silver and 4CP UV inks
- Measures 15″x 13″x 2″at 11 lbs
A 10 minute film about the inspiration and process for the artwork of Cargo In The Blood as well as Mills' work for The Downward Spiral was also made available for viewing.
For more information, see NIN 2013-2014
The album was supported by a major tour that visited festivals and arenas around the world. For the Tension 2013 Tour, the touring lineup was expanded to eight members (the largest in the history of the band and the first to utilize backup singers) and the visual elements were a logical continuation of those from the Lights In The Sky Tour. The tour also included two co-headlining legs, one with Queens Of The Stone Age and one with Soundgarden.
All Hesitation Marks songs have been played live, though "Everything" didn't make its debut until 2022.
- Written by Trent Reznor
- Produced by Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross, and Alan Moulder
- Arranged by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross
- Programmed by Atticus Ross, with Trent Reznor and Dustin Mosley
- Mixed by Alan Moulder
- Mastered by Tom Baker at Precision Mastering, Hollywood, CA
- Engineered by Jun Murakawa, Dustin Mosley, Atticus Ross, and Alan Moulder
- Artwork by Russell Mills
- Photographed by Rob Sheridan and Dayve Ward
- Digital Assistance by Michael Webster
- Art Direction by Rob Sheridan
- Management: Rebel Waltz
- Booking: Marc Geiger at WME
- Publicity: Ambrosia Healy, The Fun Star
- Business Management: William "Bill" Harper and Michael Walsh at Gelfand, Rennert and Feldman, LLP
- Legal: Gary Stiffelman and David Byrnes at Ziffren Brittenham, LLP
- Studio Manager / Project Coordination / Guy That Makes Everything Work: Dustin Mosley
- Additional Recording at The Village Studios, West LA
- Engineered by Ghian Wright and Jun Murakawa
- Drum Recording by Joe Barresi at JHOC, Pasadena
- Engineered by Jun Murakawa
- Drum Technician: Mike Fasano
All songs published by Form And Texture [ASCAP] except:
"The Eater Of Dreams" written by Trent Reznor and Alessandro Cortini, mixed and engineered by Michael Patterson.
Published by Form And Texture / Modwheelmusic, Inc. [ASCAP]
"While I'm Still Here" contains portions of "Weary Blues From Waiting" [Hank Williams, Sr.]
Published by Sony/ATV Acuff Rose Music [BMI]
Ableton, Antiquity Music, Stephen Bannister and Joe Taupier from Westlake Pro, Gerry Barad, Karen Ciccone, Alessandro Cortini, Adrian and Martha Belew, Michele Bernstein, Big City Music, Elena Dickstein and Preferred Travel, Lon Cohen Studio Rentals, Tom Consolo, Markus Dravs, Erik Eger, Joshua Eustis, Robin Finck, Nicki Goldstein and Midway Car Rental, Jeff Greenberg and Tina Morris at The Village, Toni Halliday, Izotope, Claudia Lagan, Christina Lum, Mariqueen, Frank McDonogh, Ian Montone, Joe Munns, Steve Nightingale, Samantha Sissons, Rob Fleming, Olivia Hobbs, Hannah Neaves, Susie Ember and the rest of the Universal Music team, Native Instruments, Amos Newman, Ruairi O'Flaherty and PMC Ultimate Speakers, David Passick, Maurice Patist, Michael Patterson, Marc Picken, Tony Pinnick and Design FX Audio, Glen Pratley and SSL, Pete Prokopiw, Sandy Roberton, Ross Rosen, Aaron Rubin, Ilan Rubin, Joe Ryan and Rock-It Cargo, Claudia Sarne, Angela Sidlow, Dave Sitek, Dave Smith and everyone at Dave Smith Instruments, Soundtoys, Seph Sowers, Rob Stringer, Ashley Newton, Mark Williams, Scott Greer, Erika Alfredson, Bryan Younce and the rest of the Columbia team, Marc Vangool, Irina Volodarksy, Barbara West, Iowa Wong and Selene Yen.
Deluxe Edition Remix Credits
"Find My Way" (Oneohtrix Point Never Remix)
- Mixed by Daniel Lopatin + Paul Corley
- Additional Engineering by Paul Corley
- Recorded in a kitchen in Brooklyn, NY
"All Time Low" (Todd Rundgren Remix)
- Remixed by Todd Rundgren
- Vocals by Trent Reznor and Todd Rundgren
"While I'm Still Here" (Breyer P-Orridge 'Howler' Remix)
- Remixed by Genesis Breyer P-Orridge, an Angry Love production (BMI)
- Engineered by Sean Ragon at Heaven Street Studios, June 2013
- Additional Vocals: Genesis and Lady Jaye Breyer P-Orridge
- Tibetan Thigh Bone Trumpet & Shiva Naga Serpent Trumpet: Sean Ragon
- Hesitation Marks teaser trailer
- Artwork created for Hesitation Marks
- Russell Mills on the artwork for the album
- Interior artwork photographed by Rob Sheridan
- Explanation of the mastering
- Hesitation Marks at nincatalog.com
- Hesitation Marks at Amazon
- Hesitation Marks at eBay